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MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Aero-Astro Magazine Highlight

The following article appears in the 2006–2007 issue of Aero-Astro, the annual report/magazine of the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. © 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Earll Murman makes everything he touches better

By Wesley L. Harris

Earll Murman

Earll Murman (W. Litant photo)

I met Earll Murman during the summer of 1964 at Princeton University where we were graduate students. He was party to my learning to play squash, learning to measure wake profiles with a conical probe, and learning to navigate the trenches of graduate life.

From 1990 to 1996, as our department head, Earll set the standard of serving the MIT Department of Aeronautics. Earll lead us through the development of a strategic plan that would be Aero-Astro’s roadmap for the next decade. He prioritized strengthening our community of scholars. He showed us how to make tough decisions without negatively impacting the essence of who and what we are. Earll made us better and stronger in so many dimensions.

During the summer of 2005, Earll returned to help the Department during a time of special need. With full suit of armor, Earll came to our aid and served as only Earll can for one year as our deputy department head. He led the charge to recruit new, world-class faculty members. He strengthened our relationship with MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. Simply put, he smoothly steered our grand ship through fields of icebergs.

Following a successful career in industry as a vice president and general manager, Earll joined the MIT faculty in July 1980 as a full professor. His MIT tenure included service as director of Project Athena (1988-1991), head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (1991-1996), director of the Lean Aerospace Initiative (1995-2002), and deputy head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (2005-2006). A member of the National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Aeronautical Society, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, Earll’s peers around the globe recognize and honor him as an outstanding scholar. His seminal paper in computational fluid dynamics ushered in a new area of research. Our students, staff, and faculty have cited Earll as outstanding academic advisor and for work to building a sense of community. Indeed, he is “a person who makes everything he touches better.”

There are indeed few who have served the Department, School, Institute and the engineering profession in a manner as exemplary as that of Earll Murman. He has finally (and firmly!) planted himself on the west coast in a well-deserved retirement,
Earll, thanks for all you have done for us and with us. You have done it extremely well. We remain grateful. Be well and return often.

Wesley L. Harris is head of the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He may be reached at

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